by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s the first full week after the All-Star Break, and that unfortunately doesn’t leave us with the best options to choose from (since the best starters generally throw in those first three games). That doesn’t mean that there aren’t options worth using, however. Let’s take a look at how this weeks two start pitchers shake out:
Tier 1 – The Elite
- Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox – vs. KC, at Min
- Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. TB, at CHC
Tier 2 – Not Quite Elite
- Julio Teheran – Atlanta Braves – vs. Mia, vs. SD
- Scott Kazmir – Oakland A’s – vs. Hou, at Tex
- Hyun-Jin Ryu – Los Angeles Dodgers – at Pit, at SF
Tier 3 – More Risk, But Among The Better Options
- Mat Latos – Cincinnati Reds – at Mil, vs. Was
- Doug Fister – Washington Nationals – at Col, at Cin
- Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. SF, vs. Ari
Tier 4 – Solid Options
- Jake Odorizzi – Tampa Bay Rays – at Stl, vs. Bos
- Wily Peralta – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Cin, vs. NYM
- Jacob deGrom – New York Mets – at Sea, at Mil
- Rick Porcello – Detroit Tigers – at Ari, at LAA
- Jimmy Nelson – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Cin, vs. NYM
- Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers – at Ari, at LAA
- John Lackey – Boston Red Sox – at Tor, at TB
- Tom Koehler – Miami Marlins – at Atl, at Hou
- Matt Cain – San Francisco Giants – at Phi, vs. LAD
Tier 5 – Maybe?
- Jonathan Niese – New York Mets – at Sea, at Mil
- T.J. House – Cleveland Indians – at Min, at KC
- Colin McHugh – Houston Astros – at Oak, vs. Mia
- Ryan Vogelsong – San Francisco Giants – at Phi, vs. LAD
- Drew Hutchison – Toronto Blue Jays – vs. Bos, at NYY
- Jake Peavy – Boston Red Sox – at Tor, at TB
- Roenis Elias – Seattle Mariners – vs. NYM, vs. Bal
- Shane Greene – New York Yankees – vs. Tex, vs. Tor
- Jeremy Guthrie – Kansas City Royals – at CWS, vs. Cle
- Miguel Gonzalez – Baltimore Orioles – at LAA, at Sea
- Bud Norris – Baltimore Orioles – at LAA, at Sea
- Edinson Volquez – Pittsburgh Pirates – vs. LAD, at Col
Tier 6 – Not A Chance
- Bruce Chen – Kansas City Royals – at CWS, vs. Cle
- Roberto Hernandez – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. SF, vs. Ari
- Vidal Nuno – Arizona Diamondbacks – vs. Det, at Phi
- Miles Mikolas – Texas Rangers – at NYY, vs. Oak
- J.A. Happ – Toronto Blue Jays – vs. Bos, at NYY
- Eric Stults – San Diego Padres – at CHC, at Atl
- Chase Whitley – New York Yankees – vs. Tex, vs. Tor
- Scott Carroll – Chicago White Sox – vs. KC, at Min
- Franklin Morales – Colorado Rockies – vs. Was, vs. Pit
- It’s easy to like Doug Fister, overall, but he’s struggling to generate strikeouts and isn’t pitching in ideal locations this week. Any time you start at Coors Field you have to be knocked down a peg or two.
- Justin Verlander in Tier 4? Really? We all know how disappointing he’s been, overall, but he’s been even worse on the road (5.07 ERA). Throw in the fact that he faces the Angels, who are one of the best hitting teams at home (237 R, through Friday, were most in AL) and there’s plenty of reasons to be skeptical.
- On the surface John Lackey appears to be a very good option, but his splits might tell a different story. He’s been great at home (3.22 ERA), but has struggled away from Fenway (4.47 ERA). The biggest differences are a regression in his strikeout rate (9.27 vs. 6.39) and the long ball (10 HR allowed on the road), and we all know Toronto can slug it (67 HR at home rank them behind only the Rockies). Of course, he also owns a 1.24 WHIP on the road. He’s a usable option, but one that could ultimately fall short.
- Matt Cain’s elbow has been an issue for him of late, which is likely the only reason the Giants are waiting to have him start on Tuesday. As it is his strikeouts are down and he faces two difficult lineups. He’s worth the gamble (and it’s impossible to imagine not using him), but he is a gamble all the same.
- We generally shy away from pitchers making their first start off the DL, though there are times we make exceptions. For instance Cliff Lee, who returns for a pair of home starts against the Giants and Diamondbacks. While we have to temper our expectations, it’s nearly impossible to imagine having him on your bench this week. (If he wasn’t coming off the DL, he’d likely be a Tier 1 or Tier 2 option).
- Speaking of starters returning from the DL, the Mets’ Jonathan Niese finds himself in a similar situation. He has been a good option all season, despite his velocity being down (88.6 mph average fastball). We would definitely view him as a riskier option than Lee.
- We all know how highly touted Jimmy Nelson was upon his recall, though he certainly left fantasy owners wanting more in his first start upon returning to the Majors (6 ER on 8 H and 2 BB over 4.1 IP). It was disappointing, but we can’t forget his 9.24 K/9, 2.59 BB/9 and 57.3% groundball rate while maneuvering through the Pacific Coast League. Considering that the Reds offense isn’t what it normally is (no Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips) and no matter how the Mets are playing they aren’t going to scare you, he’s well worth the gamble.
- T.J. House has pitched well when given the opportunity in the Majors this season, though a lot of poor luck has plagued him (.342 BABIP, 28.0% HR/FB). While there’s definitely a lot of risk involved in using him, the Twins and Royals offenses aren’t very intimidating. He’s become a groundball machine (61.7% in the Majors, 55.3% in the minors this season) and if you are going to gamble he’s someone worth considering.
Sources – CBS Sports, Fangraphs, MLB.com, Minor League Central
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